From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : GM food crops, GM mustard
Mains level : GM food crops, issues, food security and significance for India
What’s the news?
- The zero-hunger target for 2030, as delineated in the 2019 Global Food Security and Nutrition Report, looms as an increasingly elusive goal. To overcome this pressing challenge, it is essential to expedite the genetic enhancement of crops.
- In a world grappling with the formidable challenge of ensuring global food security amid a changing climate, genetic engineering emerges as a beacon of hope. It has become an urgent necessity to complement conventional breeding methods with science-based technologies, particularly genetic engineering, for developing GM crops.
Extensive adoption and benefits of genetically modified (GM) crops
- Increased Productivity: Genetic modification of crops, in combination with traditional farming practices, has been extensively documented for its role in increasing agricultural productivity. This technology has made significant contributions to global food, feed, and fiber security.
- Global Adoption: According to a report by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) in 2020, a total of 72 countries have embraced GM crops for various purposes, including human consumption, animal feed, and commercial cultivation. This widespread adoption reflects the global significance of GM crop technology.
- Developing Country Emphasis: Notably, 56% of the total global GM crop area is found in developing countries, in contrast to 44% in industrialized countries. This highlights the importance of GM crops in addressing food security and economic challenges in the developing world.
- Beneficiaries: GM crops have had a positive impact on more than 1.95 billion people globally. Specifically, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India, and the United States have realized substantial benefits from the adoption of GM crops, benefiting approximately 26% of the world’s population.
- Diversification of Traits: Genetic modification has extended its reach beyond the major crops of maize, soybean, cotton, and canola. Other economically important food crops have also been modified to exhibit various traits, including resistance to insects and herbicides, improved climate resilience, and enhanced nutritional quality.
Economic Gains and Biosafety
- Economic Gains: The global economic gains attributed to GM crops between 1996 and 2018 have amounted to an impressive $224.9 billion. These benefits have primarily accrued to more than 16 million farmers, with 95% of them residing in developing countries.
- Proven Biosafety: GM food crops, since their adoption in 1996, have established a solid track record of biosafety spanning over 25 years. This underscores the safety and reliability of GM crops for human consumption and the environment.
India’s Success Story with Bt Cotton
- Commercialization: Bt cotton was introduced as the first genetically modified crop in India over 20 years ago, marking a significant milestone in biotechnology adoption in the country.
- Economic Benefits: Bt cotton adoption has provided economic advantages to Indian farmers. It has reduced the need for chemical insecticides, leading to cost savings for farmers and reducing their exposure to health risks associated with pesticide use.
- Increased Yields: Bt cotton’s resistance to pests, particularly the bollworm, has resulted in increased cotton yields in India. Farmers have experienced reduced losses due to pest damage, leading to higher production and improved economic returns.
- Environmental Impact: The adoption of Bt cotton has had a positive environmental impact. Reduced pesticide usage in Bt cotton cultivation has led to lower chemical runoff and reduced contamination of ecosystems.
GM Mustard’s Progress in India
- Development of the DMH-11 Hybrid: Extensive research was conducted at the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP), University of Delhi South Campus, to create a GM mustard hybrid known as DMH-11. This hybrid has been genetically engineered to exhibit higher vigor and yield.
- Approval by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC): On October 25, 2022, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) of the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change in India approved the release of DMH-11 and its parental line for cultivation. This approval represents a significant milestone in the regulatory process for GM crops in India.
- Environmental Release: The GEAC’s approval for the environmental release of GM mustard indicates that the technology has passed regulatory scrutiny for safety and environmental impact, paving the way for potential commercial cultivation.
Significance for India in Terms of Edible Oil Sufficiency
- Reduction in Edible Oil Imports: India currently faces a substantial deficit in edible oil production, with a significant portion of its demand being met through imports. In 2020–21, India’s edible oil imports reached approximately 13 million tonnes, with a total value of ₹1.17 lakh crore.
- Increased Productivity: GM mustard, particularly the DMH-11 hybrid, has been developed for higher vigor and yield. This increased productivity can play a crucial role in meeting the growing demand for edible oils in the country.
- Resource Efficiency: GM mustard’s herbicide tolerance trait can lead to more resource-efficient cultivation practices. It helps conserve soil moisture and nutrients and reduces the need for chemical weed control, ultimately contributing to sustainable and self-reliant agriculture.
GM mustard’s significance for India’s self-reliance
- Reduced Dependency on Imports: By boosting domestic edible oil production, GM mustard can reduce India’s dependency on edible oil imports. In 2020–21, domestic production of mustard oil was approximately 8.5 million tonnes, while domestic consumption of edible oils reached around 25 million tonnes.
- Economic Growth: Successful cultivation of GM mustard can contribute to economic growth in India. It can increase farm incomes and reduce the outflow of foreign exchange for edible oil imports. This is vital for strengthening India’s self-reliance and economic stability.
- Sustainability: GM mustard’s potential for resource-efficient cultivation aligns with sustainability goals. It ensures that agricultural practices are more self-reliant in terms of resource utilization and environmental impact, a critical aspect for long-term agricultural sustainability.
- Crop Diversification: The adoption of GM mustard, along with other crops, can diversify India’s agricultural output. Reducing dependency on a limited number of crops enhances food security and reduces vulnerability to external factors.
- The approval of DMH-11 marks a significant step towards harnessing this technology for the benefit of Indian farmers and the nation’s food security. However, this is just the beginning, and continued efforts to develop improved GM food crops are essential to enhancing the profitability of Indian agriculture.